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Tasers to the face: How the Israeli Navy seized latest Gaza flotilla

Activists describe violence and threats by Israeli naval commandos in international waters. Right-wing organization attempts to take ownership of the boat.

The Israeli Navy seized a fishing boat attempting to break the siege on Gaza Sunday. According to activists on board, naval commandos tasered the boat’s first officer in his face, punched another crew member in the face, and threatened the life of the captain.

There were 22 participants and crew members aboard “Al Awda,” “The Return” in Arabic. The Norwegian boat was one of several ships this summer attempting to break the siege and bring aid to Gaza, an effort that has taken place yearly for nearly a decade.

“We started to receive radio messages on Sunday,” recalled Zohar Regev, one of two Israeli participants onboard the ship. “We responded that we are a Norwegian ship exercising its right to sail in international waters.”

Several hours later, Israeli Navy Zodiac boats approached the ship and Israeli commandos, dressed in all white uniforms complete with white ski-masks, boarded with tasers drawn. Most of the participants attempted to create a human chain and nonviolently block the naval commandos’ access to the ship’s bridge with their bodies, according to the activsts.

The naval commandos tased First Officer Charlie Andreasson in his face, Yonatan Shapira, the second Israeli activist onboard the ship said, adding that the activists did not resist violently. The Israeli sailors also punched the ship’s mechanic in the face, and tasered two others onboard, including a 60-year-old from New Zealand, according to Shapira.

“They slammed Herman the captain’s head against the wall again and again, while threatening to take him to the ship’s belly and finish him off when no one is watching,” Shapira recalled.

“We knew that we weren’t going to break the siege, and that wasn’t the purpose,” Shapira explained. “The aim was international pressure. The goal was to wake and encourage other activists — who suddenly see all these people on a simple fishing boat sailing to Gaza — to mobilize and help out.”

Israeli naval forces towed the boat, which it seized in international waters, to Ashdod and turned all of the activists over to Israeli police. The two Israelis were threatened with charges of aiding the enemy, trying to enter Gaza, and conspiring to commit a crime, said Shapira, although the first accusation was dropped by the time they were released.

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The changing relationship between Palestinians on either side of the wall

Despite physical separation and internal divisions, Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line are once again talking about the future of their struggle, and the role that Palestinian citizens of Israel can play.

Out of sight from most of the Israeli public, yet under the close watch of the government, an internal debate has been raging within Palestinian society about the devastating effects of the physical separation and internal divisions plaguing Palestinians.

Two recent protests, one in Haifa in solidarity with Gaza and another in Ramallah against the Palestinian Authority’s role in the siege — in which Palestinian citizens of Israel also participated — helped reinvigorated the conversation about the relationship between Palestinians on both sides of the separation wall and the role of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the struggle against the occupation.

Dr. Huneida Ghanem, who runs Madar — The Palestinian Center for Israeli Studies, has been studying this issue for years. In her research, Ghanem, who divides her time between Israel and Ramallah, has found that despite the divisions, most Palestinians agree on several main points: the division between them was forced on them, that it weakens them, and that it allows Israel to more easily control them.

The divisions do not begin and end with the wall and the occupation. For years, Fatah and Hamas have been unable to reconcile, despite the pleas of their people. Palestinians inside Israel face divisions of their own, including along religious lines, political disputes, and geographic differences that beget cultural gaps.

All these factors have, over the years, created distinct political, social and economic situations for each community, which has led to different needs and problems that require different approaches and policies. As a result, according to Ghanem, each group has developed its own political program to deal with the occupation.

In the occupied territories, the struggle focuses on establishing a state through both violent and nonviolent means, including popular struggle and the BDS movement. Those in the West Bank focus on settlements and apartheid; in Gaza the focus is on the hardships created by the siege, as well as the violence and destruction wrought by wars with Israel every few years and the rebuilding between the violence.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are fighting for equal citizenship through political parties and extra-parliamentary organizations, focusing mostly on discrimination and racist laws. And outside of Palestine, millions of refugees are struggling for the right to return to...

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The night the Palestinian Authority showed us whose side it is on

The violence meted out by PA forces against Palestinian demonstrators Wednesday night was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. When it was all over, one thing became clear: the PA isn’t a subcontractor of the occupation, they are in lock step.

Having just witnessed her friend’s arrest, and frustrated by her failure to prevent it, a young activist stood in front of a line of police officers, defenseless, and instinctively shouted, “With spirit, with blood, we’ll redeem you Gaza.” Members of the Palestinian security forces, dressed in civilian clothes, knocked her to the ground. Two policemen joined in and began kicking the bleeding, terrified woman.

This was just one of the many scenes of violence meted out by the Palestinian Authority’s security forces against Palestinian demonstrators who had gathered in the center of Ramallah Wednesday night to demand an end to the PA’s sanctions against Gaza. It was the second such demonstration in the span of a week.

The first demonstration, on Sunday, was relatively uneventful, but on Wednesday the PA’s response was severe: police arrested 69 activists, some of whom were arrested after the protest while they were receiving treatment for their wounds in the hospital. Security forces attacked journalists, women, the elderly, and bystanders, confiscating and breaking cameras and phones. Meanwhile, groups of Fatah youth dressed in civilian clothes infiltrated the protest and meted out their own violence.

The trip to Ramallah, on a bus carrying activists from Haifa, went smoothly. But upon our arrival at Manara Square, we found an unexpectedly large number of Palestinian security forces: hundreds of armed, uniformed security forces — some in police uniforms, some special forces, others in military uniforms with balaclavas covering their faces. Everyone there that night understood that there were also members of secret police — dressed in civilian clothes — circulating among the demonstrators.

The police had preemptively declared the demonstration illegal the previous morning. According to the PA, the reason was “the desire not to disturb the residents of the city in their preparation for the upcoming Iftar celebration.” The protest was supposed to start at 9:30 p.m., but police prevented demonstrators from gathering in the square. Then suddenly, the police moved with great force toward one of the streets that split off from the square, and began firing stun grenades and tear gas toward the protesters.

I took out my phone...

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Palestinians in Ramallah protest PA sanctions on Gaza

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrate in central Ramallah, calling for Mahmoud Abbas’ ouster in the face of the Palestinian Authority’s sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Protest organizers say this is only the beginning.

Palestinian protesters marched through the streets of central Ramallah on Sunday to demand that the Palestinian Authority put an end to its sanctions against Gaza, and called for an end to the siege on the Strip.

The protest, organized by local left-wing activists unaffiliated with any specific parties, focused on PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The demonstrators marched from Manara Square in the city center while chanting “Get out, get out Abbas,” along with chants of support for the residents of Gaza.

Upon circling back to Manara Square, the demonstrators say they were surprised to find two anti-Hamas posters. The posters decried the “Hamas coup” in 2007 as the “source of all trouble,” and boasted of the $17 million spent by the PA on Gaza since Hamas took over the Strip.

Despite various reconciliation deals between Fatah and Hamas, and the establishment of a Palestinian unity government in January 2017, since April of last year the Palestinian Authority has placed severe sanctions on the Gaza Strip, including by refusing to pay for the electricity supply from Israel; refusing to pay the tax on diesel intended for Gaza’s power plants, leading to a major electricity crisis; cutting salaries of the PA staff in the Strip, as well as a plan to force PA officials into early retirement; refusing to guarantee medical treatment for seriously ill patients who asked to leave the Strip in order reach hospitals in Israel or the West Bank.

Palestinian police did not arrest a single protester, but journalist Yara Hawari, who was at the demonstration on Sunday, noted “it is possible that they will begin arresting activists in the coming days.”

Arresting protesters that night, Hawari continued, would have would have likely led to an escalation. “The police acted wisely, after all, they do not want to resemble the Israeli police,” she explained, referencing the violent arrests of political activists in Haifa three weeks ago.

But why are they protesting only now? The Great Return March has been ongoing for two-and-a-half months

“This is what the activists in Haifa were wondering: where is Ramallah? Remember that organizing demonstrations requires laying the groundwork for bringing people into the streets. People...

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Gaza's protest leaders still believe in nonviolent struggle

Despite the bloodletting in Gaza over the past months, the leaders of the Great Return March believe that nonviolent resistance is still the best way to end the siege. Rami Younis spoke to Hasan al-Kurd, one of the leaders of the march about the successes, mistakes, and future of the movement. 

While everyone this past week focused on Israeli police officers breaking the leg of Jafar Farah, a prominent Palestinian political activist from Haifa, I could not help but think of someone else’s leg — that of Hasan al-Kurd’s brother-in-law, in Gaza.

Two months ago, during the first Friday protest of the Great Return March, I spoke at length to al-Kurd, one of the march’s organizers. We had kept in touch after I conducted an interview with him in the run-up to the events, which began on March 30th. On that Friday, I called al-Kurd several times for updates. One call ended abruptly; I tried to dial him again, to no avail. There was no response until the evening.  

When I finally managed to get hold of him, he began by apologizing profusely. He sounded broken, asking that I refrain from quoting him at length. He also revealed why our call had been cut off: an Israeli sniper shot his brother-in-law, who was standing right next to him. When I asked why he preferred that I do not mention it in my interview, he responded by saying that “neither I nor my family are the issue here.”

Today, seven weeks later, al-Kurd feels more comfortable speaking about his brother-in-law and others wounded, whom he knows personally. “My brother-in-law is fine, he is a strong man,” he says with his typically optimistic tone. “He cannot walk on that foot nor can he work, but he will be okay.”

Al-Kurd, 43, is a schoolteacher who lives with his wife and their six children near central Gaza, in an area he refers to as “mixed.” “There are many refugees as well as regular residents, but this is not a refugee camp,” he tells me. During our conversation I learn that the son of al-Kurd’s neighbors, a 10-year-old who plays with his children, was shot in his leg last Monday, and remains hospitalized in serious condition due to severe blood loss.

“They shot him in the knee, and the bullet...

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Gaza 'Return March' organizer: 'We'll ensure it doesn't escalate to violence — on our end'

Palestinians in Gaza are planning 45 days of protests along the border with Israel leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, and they fear Israeli troops may open fire. One of the organizers speaks to +972 Magazine about why he believes hundreds of thousands of people will show up, and what message he’d like to send to Israelis.

A few minutes before I spoke with Hasan al-Kurd Monday night, Israel’s prime-time nightly news led with story about the march of return al-Kurd and other Palestinian activists in Gaza are planning along the border of the besieged territory this Friday — and how security officials believe their plans to stop the march will result in Palestinian casualties.

The Israeli media has been abuzz for the past several weeks about the march and the army’s plans for stopping tens of thousands of people reaching the border fence. In an oped in Haaretz this week, a former Israeli military spokesperson warned of the optics of “innocent marchers, women, children and men, longing to return to their homes, fired upon by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers.”

According to the Channel 2 broadcast on Monday, Israel’s cabinet has been discussing “out-of-the-box” ideas. One minister proposed “parachuting food and medicine, maybe via drones, deeper into Gaza, and hopefully that will encourage the Palestinian civilians to go toward the food that was dropped from the sky instead of heading to the fence.”

Al-Kurd is amused when I tell him what I’ve just heard on the news. “We anticipated they’d try that,” he says, jokingly. We laugh, and say that maybe they should plan more marches and initiatives along the Gaza border — to convince Israel to ease the siege and relieve some of the suffering in Gaza.

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Al-Kurd, a 43-year-old school teacher and father of six from Gaza, is one of 20 organizers of the planned march, which is actually a 45-day event starting this Friday, Land Day, and culminating on May 15, Nakba Day. Seventy percent of the population of Gaza are refugees, meaning they or their parents or grandparents fled or were expelled from towns, villages, and cities inside the territory that became in Israel in 1948, an event known as the Nakba. They have never been allowed to return.

The plan is to set up camps between 700-1000 meters from...

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Palestinian film festival seeks to challenge Israel's cultural erasure

For the third straight year, local Palestinian as well as Arab filmmakers from across the world will be able to showcase their work in the Haifa Independent Film Festival. 

For the next six days, film lovers will flock to the north for the third annual Haifa Independent Film Festival, which will include both Palestinian films, as well as movies from across the Arab world. 

Lina Mansour, one of the festival’s organizers, said Thursday night during a press conference in Haifa’s Khashba Theater that the goal of the festival, like in previous years, is “to develop the Palestinian film scene, and to open doors to the Arab world. This year the festival has grown and become well known — directors from the Arab world have asked us to screen their films, instead of waiting for us to ask them.”

“We are facing a colonial occupation regime that tries to strip us of our culture,” adds organizer Rana Asli. “It is important that we have the choice of what culture we consume. And it is even more important that it comes from us — the people whose culture is being erased — with no governmental, political, or party-based constraints.”

And yet, this year’s festival was not without controversy. The organizers decided not to include a film by Jerusalem Director Muayad Alayan, The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, after the BDS movement decided it had violated one of its principles when he cast two Israeli actors, Ishai Golan and Sivane Kretchner, in the movie. The film’s creators say that Golan and Kretchner have spoken out against the occupation and in support of Palestinian rights, and thus the film should not be subject to boycott.

“After a vote, we decided not to screen the film,” says Ayed Fadel, one of the organizers, in response to a number of questions by journalists on the matter. “It does not mean we automatically support the boycott movement on this issue. We respect both sides, and Muayad Alayan screened a film of his at the first festival.”

“The festival has a clear Palestinian identity, which tries to follow the principles of the boycott,” Fadel added. “We have partners in Ramallah as well as Palestinian foundations that give us their support. When it comes to maintaining the festival, while continuing to build trust with the Arab world, these are...

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Israel arrested 1,300 Palestinians in two months, rights groups say

According to a new report, Israel arrested 1,319 Palestinians in January and February. Of them, 274 are minors, 23 are women, and four are journalists.

The Israeli army arrested 1,319 Palestinians during the months of January and February, according to a new report released Wednesday by various Palestinian prisoners rights groups. Of the 1,319 arrested, 274 are minors, 23 are women, and four are journalists.

The report culls data from various organizations, including the Prisoners and Liberties Affairs Association, the Palestinian Prisoner Club, Addameer, and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and includes a geographic distribution of those arrested: 381 from Jerusalem, 30 from the Gaza Strip, and the rest from the West Bank (with more than 200 of those arrested hailing from the Ramallah area).

According to the report, close to 6,500 Palestinians, including administrative detainees, are currently imprisoned in Israeli jails. Of those, 350 are children, and 63 are female, including six female minors. Since the beginning of the year, Israel has issued 169 administrative detention orders — 50 of which were new, rather than renewed terms for Palestinians already in administrative detention. The total number of prisoners in administrative detention is close to 500.

The report highlights two particularly violent arrests that constitute severe violations of basic human rights. The first is the case of Yassin Al-Saradih, a 30-year-old resident of Jericho who died in IDF hands after being severely beaten, and possibly shot, and denied medical treatment. The second is that of Ismail Abu Riale, an 18-year-old fisherman from Gaza who was shot to death by the Israeli navy and whose body was held by Israel for 12 days. According to Palestinian human rights organizations, Israel has killed 213 prisoners since 1967, including 72 prisoners who died of injuries sustained from torture.

Human rights abuses do not cease when Palestinians are arrested. Addameer’s report records testimonies of Palestinians who were subject to body-cavity searches, denied medical treatment, imprisoned in crowded cells (especially in women’s prisons), served nutritionally inadequate foods, and were physically and psychologically abused. The authors of the report demand that the United Nations investigate Israel’s systematic human rights abuses that violate the Geneva Convention.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Looted from Beirut 35 years ago, now on display in Tel Aviv

‘Looted and Hidden’ digs through the archive of films taken by the Israeli army in 1982, and shines light on more property stolen by Israel: the history of Palestinian cinema.

Rare images from the archive of Palestinian films and photographs, documenting decades of Palestinian history from before 1948 and after the Nakba, are finally seeing the light of day in a new film by Rona Sela — curator, researcher of visual history and culture, and lecturer at Tel Aviv University. Nearly all of the images from the archive were confiscated when the Israeli army raided the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s offices in Beirut in 1982, taking documents and photographed material.

The materials have now been unsealed by Israel’s Military Censor and are now accessible to the public in the Israeli army’s archives.

Sela spent hundreds of hours in the military archives to make the film, which uncovers a significant amount of documentary and cultural material: photographs and films about the lives of Palestinians before and after 1948 and in the diaspora, as well as voice recordings of Palestinian artists and producers that were censored and hidden from the public. This is an invaluable collection, which Sela’s film makes accessible in order to reveal another chapter in the story of the denial and suppression of Palestinian history.

Sela smartly chose to base her film on the rare images themselves. She builds the story of the film as a correspondence between herself and a number of Palestinians, and even an Israeli soldier who served in Beirut. The relatively short film is moving: it is hard not to wonder how these images would have influenced the development of Palestinian cinema had they not been stolen and made inaccessible to Palestinian producers.

Films by Palestinians consistently make waves and win prizes internationally, against all the odds and despite Israel’s cultural warfare against Palestinian artists. It is not a stretch to say that the potential of Palestinian cinema could have been even greater had parts of its history not been hidden from the eyes of the world.

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Similar to the destruction of Palestinian urbanization in 1948, the theft of Palestinian visual culture is another...

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Palestinian citizens of Israel won't be bullied into silence any longer

A recent campaign against Palestinian journalist Makbula Nasser, who was attacked on the front page of Israel’s most-read newspaper, was meant to strike fear in the hearts of Palestinian citizens of Israel — the fear of speaking out. That may have worked with previous generations.

Do you remember the neighborhood bully? The scary one who would hit anyone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Do you also remember what best characterized that bully? An ingenious lack of sophistication that you could see his next move coming from a mile away.

Earlier this week, Israel Hayom, Israel’s most-read newspaper, published a front-page political attack against Makbula Nassar, a Palestinian journalist, blogger at Local Call, and regular contributor to +972 Magazine. The attack-masquerading-as-journalism dug up old Facebook statuses in order to paint Nassar, who was recently hired to head a state-run road safety campaign for Israel’s Arab population, as a “prominent activist against the state.” Within a few hours, a senior government minister demanded she be fired.

Just like the neighborhood bully, Israel Hayom’s offensive against Nassar was embarrassingly transparent — she was merely a convenient distraction, and more fuel to feed the nationalist mechanisms of hatred toward anyone who thinks differently than “us.” In this story, however, Israel Hayom is more like an arch-bully in a neighborhood full of smaller bullies. The rest of the Israeli media isn’t much better, but this bully has a rich daddy — American casino baron Sheldon Adelson.

We, Palestinian citizens of Israel, need to understand that instead of simply lamenting our fate, and the fact that this particular bully’s patron will in all likelihood continue pouring his endless gambling fortune into his pet hate-mongering tabloid, we need to put these attacks into their proper proportions. We cannot allow this type of persecution to make us afraid.

Just like you can’t surrender to the neighborhood bully, we cannot let Adelson’s tabloid win, either. One of the primary goals of a witch hunt against whichever unfortunate Arab finds her or himself in the crosshairs is to sew fear in the hearts of the rest of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, god forbid they start to believe they are human beings equal to Jewish Israelis or something crazy like that.

My heart goes out to every Palestinian citizen of Israel who happens to be a civil servant — or to those who work...

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Even in death, Palestinians have to fight for their freedom

Perhaps through this scene, of Palestinians resorting to smuggling bodies out of a morgue to prevent indignity even after death, is it possible to show Israelis and the world what the occupation really means to Palestinians.

Even atheist Palestinians like me are livid about Israel’s unilateral decision to install metal-detectors — and with them increased sovereignty — at the most explosive place in the world. Al-Aqsa Mosque is not only the religious symbol of Palestine, it is also a national symbol. And there is nothing which makes Israel seem more ridiculous than its media persuasion campaigns claiming that Palestinians are “incited” to protest and resist. Why ask Palestinians in Jerusalem why they are enraged when you can regurgitate nonsense in some hilltop studio, nonsense that helps Israelis sleep better at night.

What should really keep Israelis up at night, possibly more than anything else, is the question of why Palestinian youths had to smuggle out of an East Jerusalem hospital the corpse of their friend who was shot dead by Israeli police hours earlier.

Police raided Al-Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem last Friday to seize the corpses of youths who were shot during confrontations over Al-Aqsa. Over the past few years Israel has turned Palestinian corpses into morbid negotiation cards.

Since the raid was not really covered by the Israeli media, authorities didn’t even bother to invent some story about there being contraband or ISIS weapons of mass destruction in the hospital. Nobody even bothered to ask for an explanation.

The heroic officers besieged the hospital using stun grenades. Stun grenades. In a hospital. Take a moment to digest that. They wrested control from the fierce enemy, nurses and doctors, and even managed to obstruct their work, as attested to by MK Ayman Odeh, who was there. And all for one purpose: to abduct the corpses of two children.

The photos of friends and family of Muhammad Sharf (17) and Muhammad Abu Ghannam (20) passing the bleeding corpses of their loved ones over the hospital walls to bury them quickly, even if that meant preventing mothers from having one final farewell to their children, should tear into pieces the heart of anyone with a conscience. Seeing these pictures, of family and friends willing to do anything to prevent continued humiliation and indignity even after death, should touch...

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When will the Israeli Left accept the occupation started in '48, not '67?

Only when the Israeli Left accepts that the occupation began in 1948 — and remains an open wound for Palestinians — can Arabs and Jews truly refuse to be enemies.

One of the negative characteristics of the Israeli “Left” is how it terms the military rule over the West Bank and Gaza “The Occupation.” Part of the Left even accuses Palestinians who claim there is no difference between Petah Tikva and Ariel of being like the Right, because “that’s what the Israeli Right claims.” For most Palestinians, however, this exaggerated and Orwellian talk of “The Occupation” blurs Israel’s real shame, and the skeleton buried deep in the closet: The brutal and criminal occupation of 1948.

Ethnic cleansing and massive land expropriation, and then settlement of that land, are the mother of all disgraces — even if Israelis refuse to recognize it as such in public, and even if they try very hard to ignore what most Arabs are saying. Israelis’ designation of the ’67 occupation as “The Occupation” is intended, among other things, to either obscure or prevent any engagement with the Nakba. As such, most of Israel’s pseudo-Left is actually composed of Nakba deniers.

One of the most worn-out claims used to avoid referring to the crimes of ’48 as an “occupation” is that the Nakba, or the “War of Independence” to use the laundered Zionist expression, was necessary for the national project of establishing a state for the Jewish people following World War II.

Another claim, put forward mostly by the Israeli Right, is that Palestinians refused the 1947 UN Partition Plan. This claim has always seemed to me to be void of any foundation or basic logic, and is therefore not worth addressing. Let’s see those who wave this claim around agree to distribute their homes and land to people who have arrived from overseas to dispossess them, and then we can talk about it.

A national project?

The argument that it was necessary to establish a state at the expense of the native population, while justifying it because of the persecution experienced by the occupiers, is pathetic at best. Many good people have already spoken about Zionism’s cynical exploitation of the memory of victims of the Holocaust. But to the ears of Palestinians, these self-justifications along with exaggerated talk of the “The Occupation,” as if there was no other disaster and open wound, sounds more than just...

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The Palestinian guide to dealing with racist compliments from Israelis

Intentions be damned, when many Jewish Israelis meet Palestinians even their compliments come out laced with passive-aggressive racism half the time. A comprehensive guide for Palestinians.

There isn’t a single Palestinian citizen of Israel who isn’t familiar with the phenomenon. It can happen in the middle of a conversation, during a cigarette break at work, or in pretty much any interaction in a public place — with a complete stranger: Israelis who feel a little too comfortable giving racist “compliments” to Palestinians.

As a Palestinian who grew up with and has been friends with Israelis his whole life, I learned a long time ago to ignore all those with enough chutzpa and tactlessness to publicly and directly spout passive-aggressive racism. But many Palestinians, the masochists among us who haven’t yet adopted a “fuck it” approach to the day-to-day of living in the Jewish state, still try and respond to the douche-of-the-hour who is emboldened enough to express his or her ignorance or racism politely, with a smile.

So I brought together a group of Palestinian friends and we came up with some recommendations for dealing with the not-all-that-creative, often banal racism you’ll find being spewed by Jewish Israelis.

‘Wow, you don’t look like an Arab’

An all-time classic, and number one on the list of racist compliments. Nobody knows where it originated, but this one managed to embed itself in the minds of so many Jewish Israelis who seem to think that they have rays of sunshine splashing out of exactly where the sun don’t shine.

It’s particularly annoying because it is based on the appearance and/or behavior of an Arab, with unadulterated racism as its point of departure. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is or how clearly Arabic your name is. The moment someone realizes that you don’t speak or act the way The Only Democracy in the Middle East™ educated them to believe you should or would, chances are that the mother of all racist compliments will home in like a heat-seeking missile, with little tiny afterburners launching it out of the mouth of whoever suffers from any of the following three ailments: woeful and complete ignorance, an actual belief that his or her shit smells like roses, or a combination of the first two.

How to respond: The best way is to scornfully ignore it. If you feel like you need educate the...

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